NATALIE COLLA, CDE, RDN, LDN: Mindful eating for the holidays

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I don’t know about you, but I certainly love to eat. With the holidays fast approaching, it’s easy to let our healthy habits go by the wayside. It’s important to enjoy the holidays and the food, tradition, and family time that it entails without compromising our health goals. You may have heard of the term mindful eating at some point, but what is it?

Do you eat more when you’re stressed or bored? How about at Thanksgiving or mindless snacking at parties? Mindful eating involves paying attention to our intuitive drive for seeking nourishment.

Appetite is the desire to eat even when we’re not hungry (think of the smell of chocolate chip cookies baking), while hunger is the physiological drive to get calories for fuel. Being able to satisfy both needs without going overboard is the essence of mindful eating. Check out these tips for mindful eating this holiday season:

Honor your hunger and fullness cues. In other words, eat when you’re hungry and stop eating when you’re full. Don’t eat lunch just because it’s your lunch break if you’re not hungry for a meal — try going for a walk instead to get the blood flowing. On the flip side, if you’re full after a delicious meal, resist the temptation to go for seconds. It usually takes a few minutes for the brain to catch up with the stomach and let us know we’ve had enough. We should feel satisfied after meals, but not stuffed.

Shun the clean plate club idea — Children are born with the innate ability to self-regulate their food intake; however, society quickly teaches this out of us by making us feel obligated to eat everything on our plate, which is likely a portion size that’s too large to begin with. Dish up only what you can eat. If you have young ones at home, banish the “no dessert until you clean your plate” speech and don’t be afraid to let your children serve themselves — they know how much they can eat. When you’re out to dinner, eat just half the portion and take the rest to go, or try splitting an entrée with someone.

Enjoy your food — This may seem like a no brainer, but too often we find ourselves shoveling food into our mouths without thinking about how it actually tastes. Keep your taste buds happy by taking the time to actually taste what you’re eating. Get a feel for the texture, mouthfeel, flavors, and aroma of your food. Enjoy small portions of rich food and savor each bite for a more meaningful dining experience. Plus, eating slowly fills you up faster!

Take time at meals — Sit down at the dinner table to eat, not in front of the screen. Engage in conversation with family and friends. There’s a lot to be said for gathering around a table with those who are close to us, and we tend to eat less when we do so.

Find a substitute for mindless munching — We’ve all been guilty of this before, whether it’s getting bottomless popcorn at the movies or searching the cupboards when we’re bored. Find something else to occupy your time other than your appetite. Read a book, listen to music, craft something, or go for a walk.

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Article by Natalie Colla, CDE, RDN, LDN. Natalie is a diabetes educator with Kootenai Clinic.

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